In the opening minutes, West Virginia controlled the action, scoring seven straight points to take a 7-2 lead. But Syracuse settled in and guard Eric Devendorf knocked down a three-pointer to knot the game at nine apiece.
With eleven minutes remaining, the Mountaineers held a five point lead. But that's when the Orange's defense started to hunker down and force turnovers and bad shots. Syracuse's 2-3 zone flustered WVU into six turnovers and no field goals over the next seven minutes. That allowed the ‘Cuse to go on a 14-2 run with four different players making baskets, ranging from three-point bombs to easy layups.
Guard Andy Rautins drained a shot from beyond the arc to give SU a 28-20 lead, its largest of the half. The junior would strike again minutes later with his third trey of the night. With two seconds left, Devendorf heaved a shot from about three-quarters court and it hit nothing but net. While last night's shot at the buzzer didn't count, this one left his hand in plenty of time to give the Orange a 36-29 advantage at the half.
Devendorf led the way for SU with ten points with Rautins right behind at nine. The defense really helped the ‘Cuse as it gave them extra possessions while West Virginia could not even attempt a shot. Kristof Ongenaet was extremely active on the wing, getting in the passing lanes and rebounding the basketball. Syracuse collected thirteen offensive boards against the Mountaineers in the opening twenty minutes.
After a quick Syracuse score by Paul Harris to begin the second half, the Mountaineers came out swinging. WVU guard Alex Ruoff knocked down two shots from long range during a 13-0 scoring run to erase the deficit and give his team a 42-38 lead.
Both teams exchanged three-pointers, but Johnny Flynn's trey tied the game and then Ongenaet's offensive rebound and two-handed slam put SU ahead again with more than twelve minutes remaining.
West Virginia though regained the advantage just minutes later after calling a timeout to regroup. Syracuse countered, scoring seven quick points, the last three coming off the hands of Devendorf to make the score 54-50 Orange. Including that shot, Devo scored the next nine points for SU. His last points came on another trifecta to give the Orange a five point cushion with four minutes left in regulation.
Flynn stepped to the free throw line trying to give SU a three point lead. He made the first, but the second rimmed out. West Virginia's Devin Ebanks attacked the basket with seconds to go and was fouled. The freshman sank both free throws as part of a new career-high 22 points to tie the game at 63-all and send it into overtime.
Instead of waiting until the sixth overtime to take the lead like last night, the Orange scored immediately on a layup by Harris. Flynn would also sink an easy basket, as center Arinze Onuaku found the point guard cutting down the lane with no one around him. Flynn then added two free throws to extend SU's lead to six. Down three with twenty seconds to go, WVU attempted to tie the game with a three-pointer, but Devendorf blocked the shot and then converted on the other end with a layup to seal the deal for the Orange.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 74-69 win over West Virginia:
· The six overtimes played against UConn the previous night didn't seem to affect the Orange that much. At times Flynn looked gassed, but the guy's played a ton of basketball. In the three games in New York City, Flynn's played 147 out of a possible 155 minutes. After playing 67 minutes against the Huskies, Flynn played every second of this game against the Mountaineers. He didn't do so badly either. Fifteen points to go along with nine assists.
· Syracuse really hit the glass, especially on the offensive end where it grabbed 21 caroms. Ongenaet led the way in that department with a game-high ten boards. The defense was tremendous as well, as the guys on the wings really used their hands well to disrupt the passing lanes. The Belgian also led the ‘Cuse in that category with four steals.
· The Orange gave up 22 points to Ebanks and 21 to Da'Sean Butler, but it held sharp-shooter Ruoff to only nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.
· Devendorf paced the Orange with a game-high 23 points on 4-of-8 shooting from downtown. After Flynn's fifteen comes Rautins who dropped in twelve with an array of NBA range three-pointers. Harris, Ongenaet, Onuaku, and Rick Jackson each chipped in with six points apiece.
· Syracuse is now 5-0 in overtime games this season. This was the third overtime game played by the Orange in its last four contests.
Syracuse (26-8) advances to a record 14th Big East Championship game appearance. It faces the regular season conference champion Louisville (27-5) who beat the Orange 67-57 on January 25 at the Carrier Dome. Tip-off for Saturday's game is at 9 p.m. on ESPN.